DALTON — With one week of a unique cross-country season under their belts, some of Berkshire County's top runners tested their mettle on Warrior Hill at Wahconah on Saturday.
The Warriors hosted Monument Mountain in a dual meet, but it was the Spartans who overall crashed the party.
Monument swept the races, with the girls team carding a 26-33 victory, while the boys grabbed the top three individual spots and rode that to a 23-33 win.
There was a big bright spot on the morning for the host squad, as senior standout Haley Crosier churned up her home turf for an individual victory in 21:47.09, finishing all alone in front of the pack.
"She's handled all this so well, we're really proud of her," said Wahconah coach Aaron Udel. "It's tough for her in a race like this to be out front by yourself and try to gauge things, but she's had a great attitude about it. She's self-motivated as it is."
Despite the phased wave starts, Monument's Keegan Leach and Peter LaRochelle managed to separate themselves from the field right away. Leach took home first place, his second victory of the season, in 17 minutes, 2.62 seconds. Classmate LaRochelle kept right on his heels throughout, finishing in 17:09.09. Both runners paced themselves near 11 miles per hour.
"I've realized how much Peter helps me motivate. It's good to have someone on a very similar level mentally and physically," said Leach. "I was pretty happy with how I ran today, it was a PR, so excited about that. It's a bit of a flatter course, and we had a good shot at it."
Fellow Spartan Myles Gennari was the third man in, crossing in 19:27.
The Wahconah boys certainly made things interesting from there, but it was an uphill battle for the crew led by Lucas Wildrick and Peyton Webb. That duo ran neck-and-neck for much of the race and wedged themselves into the top five, with Wildrick (19:47) finishing just three seconds in front of Webb.
"It's definitely different, it feels different for the kids. As coaches, we're trying to keep the energy level up," said Udel. "We're just happy we can put on events, it's nice out. We're telling kids to take advantage of every opportunity we have. Take nothing for granted.
"We're trying to have them find individual goals to improve on week-to-week."
The Spartans all but sealed the deal when veteran Andrew McCarthy tucked in a 19:51 time, chasing the pair of Warriors the whole way.
Wahconah refused to go quietly on its home course, however, and landed the next four finishers in a horde. The damage was done, though, and Isaiah Bennett's 11th-place finish wrapped up the meet for Monument Mountain.
"We've been working on giving each other that energy. We go into every race just as excited as we've always been and we just try to make it as real as possible. That gives us the energy we need," said LaRochelle. "Came in today looking at the season as a whole, coming off Greylock last week was tough, now we have this stretch of five weeks to try and get those times down. I'm happy with starting this stretch with a good time and place, and we'll keep it going."
Crosier was all alone virtually from the get-go, and looked strong in carding her second win of the season, pacing at an even 7 minutes per mile. Due to the wave starts, she wasn't able to benefit from the pressure of Monument's top runners, one of whom did finish with a time within a minute of the Warriors star.
"It's racing against the clock, going for that time that you want. Going in knowing the time is coming at the end is the motivation," said Crosier. "It was nice weather today, and I'm just glad to be back racing at home."
The Spartan who gave Crosier some concern and led her visiting squad to victory was Eliza Philip, who timed in at 22:22.19. She and teammate Aria Grossman (23:43) kept Monument alive despite Crosier's win and fellow Warriors Quinn Walton and Jocelyn Sommers rounding out the top five. Walton came up with a tremendous finish on the track's final 100 meters to overtake her teammate.
After that, though, coach Scott Annand's girls came swarming. Ruby Citron, Madeline Rocheleau Holmes and Anna Marie Romano rounded out the Spartans scoring, but they weren't done. Eve Grossman and Zoe Holmes also snuck into the top 10, pushing Wahconah's final two scoring runners far enough back to secure a Monument Mountain victory.
"In themselves," Annand noted, as to where his team is finding motivation during this strange fall. "This group has just been finding it within them to help one another. They want to be a part of something, where it's not just the scavenger hunt or the pasta party. They're just working, and they just want to be together."
The season continues next weekend, when the Warriors visit Mount Greylock and the Spartans travel to Mount Everett.
Team Score — Monument Mountain def. Wahconah 26-33.
Scoring Runners — 1. Haley Crosier (W) 21:47, 2. Eliza Philip (MM) 22:22, 3. Aria Grossman (MM) 23:43, 4. Quinn Walton (W) 24:39, 5. Jocelyn Sommers (W) 24:39, 6. Ruby Citron (MM) 24:42, 7. Madeline Rocheleau Holmes (MM) 24:42, 8. Anna Marie Romano (MM) 25:04, 9. Evie Grossman (MM) 25:08, 10. Zoe Holmes (MM) 25:24, 11. Madeleine Rabuse (W) 25:28, 12. Keiera O'Rourke (MM) 26:16, 13. Charity Loy (MM) 26:24, 14. Kaitlyn Olds (W) 26:39.
Team Score — Monument Mountain def. Wahconah 23-33
Scoring Runners — 1. Keegan Leach (MM) 17:02, 2. Peter LaRochelle (MM) 17:09, 3. Myles Gennari (MM) 19:27, 4. Lucas Wildrick (W) 19:47, 5. Peyton Webb (W) 19:50, 6. Andrew McCarthey (MM) 19:51, 7. Aidan Garcia (W) 20:24, 8. Riley Gladu (W) 20:29, 9. Cooper Calvert (W) 20:36, 10. Noah Perault (W) 20:42, 11. Isaiah Bennett (MM) 20:50.